It has been an eventful summer of media coverage for the lawsuit and Save PERA COLA. Most important, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against PERA and the State of Colorado achieved an early victory when Chief Judge Robert S. Hyatt refused the defendants’ motion to dismiss five of the eight claims.
The lawsuit: Gary R. Justus et al v. State of Colorado and PERA et al
The plaintiffs and defendants agreed that Claim II should be dismissed, and the defendants had not challenged Claim I or III. The judge also agreed with the plaintiffs and defendants that requests for monetary damages under Claims VI, VII and VIII (but not others) be dismissed. In other words, the plaintiffs won this first round completely and the lawsuit proceeds in excellent condition. The case number is 2010 CV 1589 and is filed in Denver County District Court, 2nd Judicial District. For a copy of this decision, go to the Court Filings and Resources tab above, then click on the top link. To see the basic document being argued click on 2010 March 18 Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint.
New York Times August 6 (online) and 7 (print) “Battle Looms Over Huge Costs of Public Pensions.” In his information/opinion column, Ron Lieber provided a decent analysis of the pension issues on a national scale, adequately paraphrased Gary Justus’ comments about Colorado’s cuts of our annual benefit increases, then rudely lectures public retirees. “Consider what it means to be a citizen in a community. And what it means to be civil instead of litigious, coming to the table and making a compromise before politicians shove it down your throat and you feel compelled to challenge them to a courthouse brawl,” Lieber wrote. He missed the parts about our attempts to influence the legislation in legislative committees and the settlement offer we had proffered to PERA General Counsel Greg Smith before Governor Ritter signed the bill. (He refused it.) Article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/07/your-money/07money.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22battle%20loms%20over%22&st=cse
Wall Street Journal June 12 “Pension Cuts Face Test in Colorado, Minnesota.” Jeannette Neumann highlights the Colorado lawsuit against PERA and quotes PERA retiree Kathy Ratz about her personal situation and reaction. Kathy is a Save PERA COLA supporter from Golden.
National Public Radio program “The Take Away” August 17 “Public Pensions: What Are a State’s Responsibilities?” This early morning nationally distributed news program provided a fair discussion of the lawsuit and what it means for retirees. Mr. Justus emphasized both the constitutionality questions of Senate Bill 1 and the financial effects on retirees. Stephen Fehr from www.Stateline.org recognized the good chance we have at success. Go to http://www.thetakeaway.org/2010/aug/17/public-pensions-what-are-states-responsibilities/ then click on LISTEN. Runs less than 8 minutes.
Pensions and Investments, October 4 “COLA reduction laws under fire in 3 states.” Timothy Inklebarger provides a full survey of the three similar lawsuits against cuts in pension increases that are being led by Attorney Stephen Pincus in Colorado, Minnesota and South Dakota. Meredith Williams is paraphrased in the article as saying “the package of legislation approved by the Colorado General Assembly is expected to save the pension system $9 billion over the next 30 years…” This is much lower than Save PERA COLA estimates of $30-40 billion and it does not appear to count PERA’s investment earnings on the money it saves. One of our SPC supporters, Algernon Moncrief, has posted a detailed comment below the article. http://www.pionline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101004/PRINTSUB/310049980&crit=cola%20reduction%20laws or try http://www.pionline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101004/PRINTSUB/310049980/1031/PIIssueAlert01
The Colorado Statesman, August 20 “PERA gets clean audit, but questions remain on Denver Public Schools retiree pensions.” Marianne Goodland reports on the annual PERA audit before the Legislative Audit Committee. Of note are paragraphs 8, 9, and 10 which refer to the lawsuit as one of the “ “lynchpins” that all affect PERA’s ability to reach full funded status.” It also cites PERA General Counsel Greg Smith as saying PERA would have to pay the $500,000 insurance deductible for legal fees and insurance should cover anything above that. SPC’s comment: “Our pension contributions at work…” http://coloradostatesman.com/content/992068-pera-gets-clean-audit-questions-remain-denver-public-schools-retiree-pensions .
CBS Evening News August 9 Katie Couric’s Notebook on Pensions. Ms. Couric references Colorado’s pension reform bill and Ron Lieber’s NY Times article in this shallow piece. She suggests “something needs to change to protect the futures of the next generation of teachers and firefighters, as well.” “Most of us have only a 401k, if that…” she adds, without mentioning how large hers is! The NY Times ‘ripple effect’ is in motion here, creating small waves with scant effort or research. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500803_162-20013120-500803.html
INDenverTimes, May 13 “PERA responds to retiree lawsuit.” Todd Engdahl gives a fair review of PERA’s motion to dismiss six of the eight claims. (The judge recently denied the motion to dismiss the claims, except where plaintiffs were in agreement.) A copy of PERA’s motion to dismiss is appended. http://www.indenvertimes.com/pera-responds-to-retiree-lawsuit/
Colorado Springs Gazette, October 6 “Tancredo, buoyed by recent polls, says he’s in to win.” In a political news article, gubernatorial candidate Tom “Tancredo pledges to save $400 million a year by forcing changes to PERA, the state education retirement program that he says “sucks money out of the general fund.” He backs a seven-year freeze on cost-of-living increases and changes in benefits in order to reach the savings.” While this should be of interest to all PERA members and retirees, SPC does not endorse or advocate for or against any political candidates. Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/tancredo-105920-long-colorado.html#ixzz12AT5nt55